Secret Teaching - Community Tools and Services


  • I didn’t intend for it to be long, but it became long once I started writing. If you’re a casual user, don’t worry about reading this post, but if you’re concerned with building and growing this community, this might be a post worth reading.

  • TLDR - Building a digital community should be a lot like building a real community. Goods and services where people need them, while also being operated by the community. Open Source Software, Decentralized protocols and federated tools can make this really easy.

  • Ignore typos in this hastily written post. Will potentially come back later for edits/upgrades.

(Now for the none TLDR version)

General Thoughts
I’m making this post to sort of document where my head is at with how the structure for this larger community/collective manifests itself. With the ultimate goal of becoming a sustainable Co-Op I think this is an extremely important topic.

While a group of people gathering in specific places is rad and all, it’s easy for that energy to quickly dissipate if it can’t adequately channel itself. There aren’t currently any people here browsing this forum or any of the other web services that have been propped up because I haven’t really been telling anyone about it. Part of not telling many people about this project yet comes down to my reasoning that I’m slowly laying the foundation so that it’s easy for others to understand and participate.

When people stumble across The Secret Teaching, it needs to be as easy as possible for users to engage with the project whether that be in the Real or Digital worlds. To help facilitate participation, the proper tools need to be propped up so that engagement can be meaningful and impactful.

What does this look like?
I’m really showing my nerdy tendencies right now, but if you’ve ever played Neopets, there used to be this little hub of “locations” that you could “visit” in the digital community. It’s a fun and engaging way for users to move around a digital community and gives a sense of space and location (even if imaginary).

The Neopets neighborhood is easy to navigate

If we take this image as inspiration, it’s really easy to imagine how we can prop up a bunch of different tools for a local community to use, whether that be a forum like the one I’m making this post to, or a federated twitter clone like Mastodon. Whatever it feels like the community needs, we just collaborate to prop up those services.

It’s important to keep in mind that this set of community tools does not have to scale to serve typical number of users that current social platforms are serving. I imagine we only need to scale it in order to serve local communities. After we have a rough model for what services and tools are needed, that model can be exported to communities in other regions/cities for organizing their own communities. All autonomous communities that utilize similar tools at a local level and interface at higher regional/national levels.

But how do we build this?
Well the good news is that at the start, I don’t think we really need to build too much computer software as there is so much free software available that can help facilitate some of the things we might need. If you’ve ever browsed the subreddit r/selfhosted you’ll probably already know this though. This forum is an open source software package (Discourse) being run on a Cloud Server that can be upgraded to meet the traffic demands of our community, and we can also run many other open source services for free on that server. The only cost for doing so is the cost of the server. That will probably go up over time, but hopefully the community can find ways of generating revenue for itself so that it can pay for those costs (obviously further in the future).

What tools do we need
I think there are a multitude of extremely obvious tools that can be propped up or even built custom, but right now I think there are a lot of really simple tools that can be utilized immediately. Here’s a master list of things I’ve propped up already, and some other potential tools.

Homepage - A web directory for browsing the community.

  • This is built custom and ran at the root directory of our website.

Chat Room - A place for fast form discussion

(proprietary options)

(open source options)

  • Matrix <---- This is one of the more promising long term open source projects
  • RocketChat

Web Forum - A place for slow form discussion

Voting Frameworks - A Place for voting and collective decision making

(open source options)

Events Pages

(open source options)

Video Platform - A place for sharing community content/art
(This is especially relevant given the current initiative that I am undertaking involves experimental monetization mechanism for live musical performance captured on video)

(open source options)

Collective Financing / Treasury tools - Tools for collectively channeling economic power

The Many more unexplored options
I could go on and on about the different potential open source options that could be used, but these are the first on my radar. My focus is on getting the MVP tools up and running so that projects and processes can start to take shape on their own, with the hope being that these tools will be the facilitating mechanisms.

I’m hoping to open this up to discussion for anyone who has any thoughts or opinions. And keep in mind that I’m moving incredibly slow, since installing and starting these services can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours. I’m technically savvy, but by no means a professional, so finding some admins to help me do the technical work from time to time would be extremely helpful. Especially if we decide to start building custom tooling or customizing existing open source options. The internet is a treasure chest of fun tools to explore, but can easily become overwhelming and hard to navigate.

What’s up with the crypto tools?
If you’re referring to the tools like Safe, Lens Protocol, and Snapshot, I want it to be clear that I’m trying to take into consideration all possible tools. Distributed Ledger Technologies offer some benefits that a lot of Federated applications don’t offer. One of the biggest potential benefits being single sign in solutions (same account for multiple services), password abstraction (as social recovery techonolgies become more advanced), token gated sections of the communities (protecting ourselves from outside capitalistic forces), and Tokenized Content (social consensus tool for distinguishing human works from artificial intelligence works).

These examples might not make sense at the moment, but as time goes on, I imagine the landscape for our common spaces on the web are going to start changing drastically soon, and having the tools to protect our communities will be important. It’s best not to throw away half of the tool chest away just because some of the tools have already been utilized for some dumb hyper-capitalistic ponzi schemes (monkey jpgs, etc). Tools are only tools and it comes down to how we use them.

Last Thoughts
Two organizations worth looking at in my opinion include Framasoft, and Enspiral. Found both of these while on my digital adventures and they’ve made some interesting tools and done a lot of cool stuff for helping facilitate collective action in the digital realm.

If I manage to prop up any more services, I will post an update here, and maybe update the above list with the services or tools I’m investigating. Feel free to drop any other tool reccomendations below if you think they’re worth checking out.